Who was the Lone Ranger? At the outset, it is essential to clarify that there is no confirmed or definitive evidence to show that Bass Reeves was the direct inspiration behind the Lone Ranger figure. George W. Trendle and Fran Striker created the character for their radio program on the WXYZ radio station in 1933. The character’s exploits are now tropes, and so it is hard to pinpoint a causal link.
A True Gun-Slinger
Bass Reeves old habits never left him, however, since he would walk around on duty with a companion, who would always have a bag full of pistols at the ready. He finally put down his guns, drawing his last breath in January 1910, when he died from Bright’s disease. He was buried in Oklahoma, but like many in his time, his grave location is now unknown.
His story and the significance of his life’s work has caught the attention of many in recent times. HBO-produced TV show “The Watchmen” opens with a movie about his life story, in the backdrop of the Tulsa Race Riots. He is also the central subject of the play “Cowboy” and is also referenced in NBC’s “Timeless.” More recently, a stylized biopic of Bass Reeves, called “Hell On the Border,” is another such example. The adventures of his life have also been put to form in comic books by publishers like Allegiance Arts & Entertainment.
However, there are similarities. Both lawmen worked with Native Americans and used a disguise to apprehend criminals. There is also a possible historical link since many of the criminals Bass would have arrested would have been sent to prison in Detroit and would have talked about his adventures. Detroit was also where the creators of the Lone Ranger character were based and from where they broadcasted.
Asking The Right Questions
However, there is still no conclusive evidence of the same. Perhaps by accident or by design, the fictional character, that is said and done, is portrayed as white. Typical of the times, some historians and biographers believe the character to be a whitewashed version of Bass Reeves. The question whether Bass Reeves was the real inspiration behind the Lone Ranger isn’t one that merits much consideration. What requires discussion is the question of who was Bass Reeves - who was the Lone Ranger is a second, somewhat redundant inquiry. What matters is preserving his real-life story, which bears many lessons for us to remember today.
His tale is not only one of adventure and romance about the wild west but also speaks to truths that ring loud today. It tells us that in any place and merit and excellence can shine a light in the darkness. Bass Reeves shows us that taking the initiative and adapting to situations pays off. Last, his story is an example that hope can be found and can be a force for a better future, no matter how bleak the present or past.
As we grow disillusioned with archaic and old ways of thinking about the world, the story of Bass Reeves is an adequate allegory to our times. Reeves found success and fame at a watershed moment in American history when the country began a long transition away from slavery. Today, as we continue to ponder how to beat those same divisive and racial forces which Reeves too had to confront, his life provides some comfort and much encouragement to those who wish to take on the challenge. So who was the Lone Ranger?